Case History Abb

A long lasting educational project to support the growth of the Organization

The Context

ABB is a global leader in power and automation technology. It operates in more than 100 countries and employs about 150,000 people. Its mission is to develop projects and applications of crucial importance for the well being of humanity and the safeguard of the planet. Innovation and social responsibility are its strong suit, and they have a deep appreciation for multiculturalism and for those with valuable professional skills within their ranks.

The partnership between ABB and SDA Bocconi was created in 1991, aiming to support and strengthen the organization when the Group expanded after the merger between the Swedish ASEA and the Swiss BBC (Brown, Boveri & Cie).

The Challenge and the Objectives

Given the premise, the issue was – and still is – to provide the best tools and skills to take on the competitive challenges of such a global organization as ABB, dealing first with the young new employees and then with the growing talents within the company. At the same time we had to build a common managerial culture and a strong sense of belonging.

The challenge for ABB and SDA Bocconi was twofold, but we managed to plan a training program that was both coherent with the organization’s values, while at the same time it was capable of starting a highly visible process of change, both at the individual and at the corporate level, followed closely through every phase by both the School and ABB.


“When we started this strategic project, dedicated to the future managers of the Group, we chose the best Italian business school with an international appeal: SDA Bocconi. Year after year the partnership between ABB and SDA Bocconi has become stronger and has taken on more value, allowing for a constant update of the course to reflect the company’s organizational evolutions and the new business scenarios.
Thanks to the excellent faculty and the School’s international approach, it was extremely easy to adapt the national program to a course that applied to the whole Mediterranean area.” 
Silvia Parma, Country HR Manager ABB Italy

“The cultural challenge, which is implicit in a team of 30 people who come from all over Europe, was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
Giuseppe Morimondi – MED Passport 2010 - Group IS Service manager

SDA Bocconi’s Proposal: The Managerial Passport

ABB Passport

After identifying the training needs, we created a Steering Committee to design a large-scale project, a team composed of ABB’s employees (in charge of HR and the various business units) and SDA Bocconi’s project managers. After spending a significant time surveying several roles at both the productive and administrative levels, the first project was born: ABB Passport, a year-long manager training program (composed of in-class work, field work, and international assignments), geared towards a dozen new employees that had passed a rigorous selection process.

ABB Lean Passport

Two years after the inauguration of the program, ABB realized that managerial skill training was also essential for the young, promising talents who had already been working in the company for a few years. They realized they needed a training program similar to the Passport, but capable of reconciling participation and attendance with work responsibilities. They once more partnered with SDA Bocconi and launched a second project: ABB Lean Passport, a shorter version, more intense and with less in-school attendance, aiming to reinforce the impact on the organization overall.

ABB MED Passport ….Passport!

In 2007 the Passport tree grew a new branch. The Group’s expanding globalization required a new approach towards multiculturalism and a new integration policy. This need was especially key to companies in the Mediterranean area. Based on the tried and true Passport formula, ABB MED Passport was born, a program developed in 9 countries of Southern Europe – in its 8th edition this year with about 200 participants – to train resources to integrate and spread ABB’s culture locally. The value of this program stems mainly from the right mix of theory and practice, strategic vision and operative abilities, and specific skills to handle new scenarios.


Project work is the cornerstone of the Passport formula and it represents fieldwork training. The participants have the opportunity to tackle challenging tasks that require both specific skills and teamwork. The objective of these projects (selected by the company and, once developed, put into practice) is to consolidate personal responsibility, planning abilities, critical thinking, communication efficiency, intercultural comprehension and a goal-oriented attitude.

The Results
In 25 years of partnership we have trained about 700 ABB managers and carried out about 200 individual and group projects, involving 9 European nations.

The sessions that have been held so far have had a significant impact on the development of the organization. Some of the participants have been called upon to fill international managing roles, acknowledging their managerial and leadership skills.

The success of the ABB Passport formula confirms that the secret to any custom training program, for it to be effective over a long period of time and to be truly mind changing, lies in the strong alliance between the School and the Client, agreeing on the objectives and on how to reach them. It implies a trust bond and a collaborative relationship that recognizes the two parts as complementary, while understanding and respecting their different roles.

Some Testimonials:

The program had an undoubtedly useful and positive impact on my personal and especially professional growth. It allowed me to expand on my business administration knowledge in an international environment, where I was able to strengthen the relationship with colleagues from different areas.
In my current role I have been able to see first-hand how the skills I acquired are helping me make progress, as they helped me develop an attitude to problem solving.
David Carera - MED Passport 2011 - Global Product Manager - Italy

“I think that the most successful aspects of this experience were three above all:
- A general look at management: for example, I don’t usually deal with financial or operational aspects, but I learned the basics of these areas, and this knowledge could be useful in the future;
- Networking, both at the internal, regional level (with colleagues that came from different countries) and with outsiders (with SDA Bocconi and the testimonials of professionals from other organizations);
- Project work, which gave us the possibility to apply some theoretical principles to a real situation.”
Francesca Gervasoni – MED Passport 2011 – HR Manager Source & Select – Italy

“I consider my MED Passport experience one of the greatest gifts and opportunities I have received from ABB in terms of training. 
The fact that I now understand better how different divisions interact, and what effect they have on the work and the objectives they have in common in an organization the size of ABB, certainly helped me appreciate the value of teamwork. 
Last but not least, I had the great opportunity of expanding my network within ABB and spend a wonderful time with colleagues who have now become friends.”
Valentina Valori – MED Passport 2008 - Global Design Team Manager - Italy

“MED Passport gave me the opportunity to share case studies in an international setting, using different approaches according to the different modules we engaged. It expanded and widened my knowledge by letting me acquire different perspectives that didn’t use to be connected to my daily job, but later helped me tackle complex situations through a more global vision. I thought it significant and outstanding that many sessions were lead by faculty from other countries. This helped me understand and apply the business model that is used in other markets/countries within a multinational organization such as ABB.”
Juan Pedro Gracia - MED Passport 2011 - CoE Manager - Spain

“I still have a positive memory of my experience in the Lean Passport project, thanks to the faculty’s great experience, the interesting topics dealt with during lessons, and the fieldwork opportunity for the final project. In my professional experience, this course laid the foundations for my managerial development, it opened my mind, made me interested in the different areas of the organization and gave me the ability to handle a team composed of people with different experiences and skills.”
Lara Cortinovis - Lean Passport 2005 - Product Manager ABB SACE - Italy

“I attended the Lean Passport program in 1998 and I still remember it as one of the best training and development programs I have ever attended. The class activities, the ABB managers and faculty who were involved, and the network I built thanks to this program gave me the cultural background and the necessary skills to take on a managerial role in the best possible way. This experience undoubtedly marked my personal development, and as a Human Resources team member I’m proud to say that this is the feedback we have always received from anyone who participated in these ABB/SDA Bocconi programs.”
Silvia Parma - Lean Passport 1998 - Country HR Manager - Italy

“The right mix of ingredients: very professional lecturers and efficient methods, interesting topics, really relevant to our business/our company style, enriching exchanges of experiences with colleagues from different countries and/or different roles.
I really enjoyed this program.”
Sara Saltalamacchia - Passport 2016 - Local Product Group Manager -MUD

“Empowering lives through knowledge and imagination is not just SDA Bocconi’s slogan, it is part of their DNA, meant to provide best-in-class learning experience.”
Ricardo Martin - Passport 2016 - ABB External Communications Manager & Public Affairs -Spain

“The program has allowed me to understand the present and rethink the future.”
Ilker Karabulut - Passport 2016 - Service Manager - EPES

“ABB Passport Program is a challenging, eye-opening experience, but it’s also a human experience. It changed the way I see my professional environment and widened the range of opportunities within my work. But the best reward will be applying what I learnt during this program in my professional life.”
Damien Lacoste – Passport 2016 – Ciabezuelo - Marketing Product Manager

“Knowledge is more than just a word to me; it represents the starting point of a person’s development, of an organization’s development. In the same way, SDA Bocconi is more than just a School of Management. It is the perfect place to bring people, knowledge and experience together, and to discover new ways of learning and improving yourself so as to create a better world.”
Begona Calvache Gil - Passport 2016 - Sales Support Specialist

“One long journey divided into 5 stages, where I got the opportunity to create a new network. One long journey that gave me a wealth of information and feedback useful for my career and my personal growth.”
Alessandra Braga - Passport 2016 - Production Processes Manager ABB

“Excellent business management training at the service of career and networking development in ABB.”
Ferran Soler - Passport 2016 - Sales area Manager ABB